Skip to content
Please select your location:
Joshua Tree National Park

5 last-minute trip ideas for a summer escape to the USA

Joshua Tree National Park
08 Min Read

Sometimes, travel is carefully planned out several months or even a year ahead. Other times, it’s more of a spur-of-the-moment occasion. Both are exciting in their own right, but the latter often requires a little more creativity as hotels start to fill up.

The good news is, with a little insider knowledge, you can still visit many of the USA’s showstopper destinations this summer — and find some time away from the crowds. Five of our specialists have shared their last-minute trip recommendations below, from city hopping along the East Coast to an action-packed adventure in the Southwest. Each idea helps you see the USA’s classic sights from new perspectives, plus they start in a city with regular direct flights from the UK, giving you more time to explore.

Fly into New York for a city-hopping adventure

Gapstow Bridge in Central Park, New York
Gapstow Bridge in Central Park, New York

By specialist Shannon

With five boroughs and hundreds of hotels to choose from, a last-minute trip to New York (and its fellow East Coast cities) is almost always possible.

While there, I will, of course, help you see the sights that have shone on the silver screen for decades, whether it’s a ticket up to the Empire State Building Observatory or a cycling tour of Central Park that steers you away from the bustle.

I can also help you uncover different sides to The City That Never Sleeps, depending on your interests. Perhaps you’d like to delve into the diverse food scene in Williamsburg, or visit the Museum of Modern Art before opening hours with a private guide?

Then, you can hop on a train to explore other defining metropolises along the East Coast, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston (read Dean’s Boston recommendations below for inspiration). Each city has its own distinct feel, giving you a fresh perspective on the States every time you step onto the platform.

Get me there: Tie in a trip to New York with other cities along the East Coast, flying direct from the UK to New York City with Virgin Atlantic on the airline’s newest aircraft.

Fly into Boston for a history-steeped escape

Paul Revere statue on the Freedom Trail, Boston
Paul Revere statue on the Freedom Trail, Boston

By specialist Dean

Early summer in Boston, just before the local schools break up, is ideal for a last-minute escape. Warm, sunny days usher in the city’s outdoor events season, from dragon boat races down the Charles River to baseball games at Fenway Park.

It’s also my favourite time of year to walk the Freedom Trail, uncovering Boston’s revolutionary past. As long as you start planning now, I can pair you with an expert private guide. They’ll help bring history to life as you pass by the Old South Meeting House, the home of Paul Revere, and other historic landmarks in the North End.

If you’re flexible on dates and want a luxury stay, I recommend The Newbury, just across from the Boston Public Garden. The hotel is set in a restored heritage building with a sweeping staircase, its own library-inspired lounge, and light-filled rooms featuring stylish original artwork.

Early summer is also ideal for visiting the neighbouring seaside towns and countryside. Stop off at Salem for spooky sites free from the Halloween crowds or head to Providence for fresh lobster rolls on the waterfront. Further afield (and a little more immersed in nature), you can hike through Acadia National Park’s spruce forests and along its rock-strewn beaches.

Get me there: Explore Boston and Cape Cod on a 13-day trip showcasing the highlights of New England. Virgin Atlantic and partner Delta offer direct flights to the city, including three daily flights starting summer 2024.

Fly into San Francisco for a gastronomic getaway

Vineyard, Napa Valley
Vineyard, Napa Valley

By specialist Becky

It’s true, San Francisco will be busy come summer, but I can help you find ways of exploring the city and its surrounding scenery away from the crowds.

There’ll still be availability in the heart of the city, but it pays to stay a little way out during the busier months. I suggest Sausalito, just across the bridge, where you can stay on the waterfront overlooking the San Francisco Bay and skyline. You’ll be close by Muir Woods National Monument, too, where you can unwind and wander among the towering redwood trees in between jaunts to the city centre for clam chowder and cable-car climbs.

After a few days in the city, head to Bodega Bay to soak up the wild Pacific Coast away from the hubbub, before wining and dining in Sonoma and Napa Valley. Both are big on the map for gourmands, so I’ll give you my list of restaurant recommendations ahead of time — just be sure to make reservations as soon as possible. It’ll also be wedding season, so I advise visiting on weekdays rather than the weekend.

If you like, I can arrange for you to go on a private tour with an expert guide, who’ll choose the vineyards and varietals that best suit your tastes. You’ll also get to go behind the scenes to learn more about the wine-making process — knowing just how precise each stage is makes me appreciate every sip all the more.

Get me there: Take a 15-day road trip through Northern California, soaking up both city sights and wine-country delights as you go. You can fly direct into San Francisco from the UK with Virgin Atlantic.

Fly into Los Angeles for a coastal & desert retreat

Santa Monica, Los Angeles
Santa Monica, Los Angeles

By specialist Alex

Rest and relaxation, sprinkled with some light exploration — that’s how I’d describe a summer trip to Southern California. It’ll be very hot, so only go if you love the sun. If you do, you can enjoy coastal adventures, desert luxury, and feet-up poolside recreation.

Santa Monica is my favourite part of the city to stay in because there's so much going on, from restaurant-lined boardwalks to the artsy shops of Venice Beach. That said, Los Angeles is busy during the summer months, so if you want a little respite from the crowds, you could stay just outside the city in Malibu, which is more laid-back. If you do, I suggest visiting Malibu Farm Cafe for a pier-side farm-to-table feast. In LA itself, I can also arrange for you to see the city’s movie-eternalised sights from the back of a 1970s convertible classic car.

Then, head to Palm Springs for a luxury desert retreat. Peruse art and mid-century modern architecture under the breezy air conditioning, lounge by the pool as you sip cocktails, and sink into a massage at the spa. In the evening, once the temperatures fall, you can join an expert for a private stargazing experience in a remote spot of Joshua Tree National Park.

Once rejuvenated, head to Orange County for a few of days at the beach, where you can learn to surf like the locals, before wrapping up your West Coast trip with a stay in San Diego. Here, you can kayak out to sea caves, indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine (you’re just minutes from the border), and spot blue whales along the coast aboard a sailing schooner.

Get me there: Take in the sights of Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and San Diego on a 21-day trip to the Golden State, flying direct from the UK with Virgin Atlantic.

Fly into Salt Lake City for an active trip away from the crowds

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

By specialist Mary

The Southwest has so many national parks to choose from, particularly in Utah, making it ideal for a last-minute adventure trip this summer (go as early as possible for more pleasant temperatures). Most people flock to Zion, so I suggest heading to Capitol Reef National Park and Moab instead, both of which are accessible from Salt Lake City. In these underappreciated alternatives, you’ll get to experience the Southwest’s sweeping red-rock vistas with fewer people around.

In Capitol Reef, you can explore Mars-like Cathedral Valley in a 4x4, go in search of 2,000-year-old Fremont culture petroglyphs, and spend the evening admiring the constellation-lit night sky in a secluded corner of the park, or beside the campfire as you toast marshmallows.

My favourite stay here is Cougar Ridge, a sprawling resort set beneath the cliffs just on the edge of the park. It’s actually a working ranch, too, so you can meet the resident horses, alpacas, donkeys, and ducks during your morning wanders.

Moab may be the USA’s adventure capital, but you can still explore it with a luxury twist. I can include a hike through Arches National Park with a private guide, who’ll come bearing gifts: a basket full of your favourite snacks to nibble on while you walk and a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sun-warmed earth while you rest.

Get me there: You can visit the national parks of the Southwest on a 14-day trip to the USA, flying direct into Salt Lake City from the UK with Virgin Atlantic’s partner Delta Airways.

Fly away with Virgin Atlantic this summer

Virgin Atlantic’s A330-900neo aircraft
Virgin Atlantic’s A330-900neo aircraft

With more flights to the USA than ever before, Virgin Atlantic and partner Delta Air Lines can whisk you to dozens of destinations Stateside. There are daily direct flights to some of our best-loved cities, and on certain routes, you can also enjoy Virgin Atlantic’s new A330-900neo aircraft, which offers Upper-Class passengers the choice of flying in the Retreat Suite. In addition to the usual Upper Class amenities, these two exclusive suites provide even more space to relax, a larger entertainment screen, and the option to dine with your travel companion.

Share this post

Was this useful?

Search all posts